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Opinion: Who is running for Squamish council?

'There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.'
Muni hall District Emily Rice
Who will be in muni chambers come fall? Much is still unknown about who is running.

Get ready folks, the next municipal election campaign will be officially launched on Sept. 17.

Up to now, the build-up has been less than seismic, but there are audible rumbles on the local political landscape.                                                                                                                            
Four years ago, 22 regular council and five mayoral candidates threw their hats into the ring.

Whether those numbers will be eclipsed has yet to be determined. One thing we know for sure, Terrill Patterson, the perennial candidate, council watchdog and recycling champion, won’t be in the mix again.

He was described as eccentric, outspoken and engaged when he passed away in April of 2020 at the age of 76.

His verbal fusillades and intriguing visual displays at all-candidates meetings will be missed.                                         

We also know that after four years as a councillor, followed by a term as mayor, Karen Elliott will be jumping ship in October.

She says it’s time to direct her time and energy to new career challenges and opportunities.

At the moment, only Deanna Lewis (Kalkalath) has indicated she is ready to throw her hat into the mayoral ring. She is a long-time Squamish resident, a former Squamish Nation councillor, teacher and owner of a recent business start-up. Her goal is to make Squamish “A place where we can all afford to work, play and live,” and she is looking to strengthen the relationship between the municipality and the Squamish Nation.                                                                                                                           
When contacted, first-term councillor Jenna Stoner and council veteran Doug Race both said they are still undecided about another trip to the hustings. Meanwhile, John French will be seeking a second term.

One of his goals is to bring back a feeling of community in Squamish. “We’ve seen too little connection and caring as we come out of the global pandemic that COVID-19 brought upon us,” he said. He emphasized that this current iteration of council has displayed a high level of respect for each other, for District of Squamish staff, taxpayers, and others with whom they interact.

Clearly, he is looking forward to continuing that convivial state of affairs if re-elected.                                                                                                                  Chris Pettingill also wants to hang onto his seat at the council table. He says there’s still plenty of work to get done. “I really missed the ability to engage with people during COVID. I didn’t mind the online meetings, but we missed out on so many unplanned conversations that normally happen at in-person events.

With targeted misinformation campaigns filling that void, I think I’m really seeing the importance of those in-person opportunities for maintaining understanding, empathy, trust, and community,” he said.

Meanwhile, Eric Andersen and Armand Hurford remain tight-lipped about their political future. So far, neither camp has replied to requests for comment.               

Bianca Peters, a former executive director of the Squamish Downtown Business Improvement Association, ran for council in 2018. She harvested a respectable 1,455 votes, just 367 ballots shy of securing the final council seat.

Although she is noncommittal at this time, given her considerable profile on social media and a broad range of community affiliations, there is a good chance her compass will point in the direction of another council venture. In a recent email, she said, “I have heard from a few leaders in our community in the past couple of weeks that they would support me if I ran. Long story short? We’ll see.

”She added that deep down, she is driven by an element of frustration associated with her previous efforts to be a force for change in town. Despite working on parking solutions during her stint with the Downtown Business Improvement Association, she said nothing of any substance has been implemented. And as a member of the Squamish Chamber of Commerce board of directors, she submitted parking and transit proposals with limited results.                                              

Everything considered, tracking the trajectory of potential council aspirants brings a catchphrase coined by the late Donald Rumsfeld to mind.

As the inimitable U.S. Secretary of Defence who served under former president George W. Bush put it so succinctly: “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

Helmut Manzl is a long-time Squamish resident and political columnist.